Gaming OK’d for venue in Dolton
License for hall that’s in same complex with assisted living center
A Dolton banquet hall in the same complex as a low-income senior assisted-living center and a planned children’s day care center has been granted a license to install video gaming terminals.
The Illinois Gaming Board last week approved a video gaming license for Giovanni’s Catering, 1515 E. 154th St., on the sprawling campus of the former Dorchester Senior Center. It’s between the senior center and Fundamentals of Learning Children’s Academy, a planned day care center that is enrolling children as it awaits licensure approval fromthe state.
Royal Estate Realty owns the complex that houses all three entities after purchasing it from the village last year. It operates the senior center, now called Royal Estates Assistive Living, and leases out the banquet halland day care center to separate individuals, Royal Estates executive director Bakari Cowan said.
Neither Loren Robinson, the owner of Giovanni’s, nor Lucky Lincoln Gaming, his licensed terminal operator, responded to requests for comment on their apparent plans to install video gaming machines on the premises. Lucky Lincoln has been facing license revocation for more than two years as a result of multiple disciplinary complaints, but is permitted to continue operating until those proceedings conclude, a Gaming Board spokesman said.
Jerry Prosapio, a former compulsive gambler from Crestwood who went on to co-found Gambling Exposed, a ministry that educates others about the dangers of gambling addiction, expressed serious concerns about locating video gaming terminals in such close proximity to a senior center.
He said Thursday that too many municipalities view video gambling as a revenue generator and fail to appreciate the social costs like addiction, bankruptcy and crime that gaming can bring.
“I sit in rooms with seniors that have lost their entire 401(k) and life savings in less than six months to these machines,” Prosapio said. “I’ve seen 80- to 85-year-old people crying their eyes out because of getting addicted. It’s the most highly addictive form of gambling, video poker, and once they start it’s just like they can’t stop.”
In 2014, when Dolton still owned the Dorchester, it awarded Robinson’s company a contract to convert part of the banquet hall into a lounge with alcohol, food and five video gaming machines that were accessible to residents of the senior center and the general public.
The Illinois Gaming Board approved a video gaming license for Giovanni’s in April 2014, but reversed course that November, citing problems with the catering company’s municipal liquor license after the Better Government Association raised concerns about the ethics of opening a mini-casino at a low-income senior center.
It was believed to be the first time video gaming had been allowed at a “supportive living facility,” which the state defines as a nursing home alternative for low-income seniors that receives Medicaid subsidies, the BGA re----
ported at the time.
Because Giovanni’s license only permitted it to serve alcohol during organized catering events, not seven days a week in conjunction with its proposed gaming hours, the Gaming Board ultimately determined the company could not comply with a state law that requires alcohol to be available whenever gaming machines are in operation, the BGA reported.
As a result, the Gaming Board revoked Giovanni’s video gaming license in November 2014 for its failure to comply with the Video Gaming Act, meeting minutes show.
A Gaming Board spokesman said Friday that the restrictions on Giovanni’s liquor license were lifted last year after Dolton sold the former Dorchester facility, allowing the caterer to legally obtain a video gaming license.
Gaming Board spokesman Joe Miller said the agency was aware of Giovanni’s history at the location and the questions about its proximity to the senior home and the day care center, but that the board was statutorily bound by law to grant licenses when certain requirements are met.
“The Board granted an application based on the statutory requirements contained in the Video Gaming Act,” he said in an email.
Miller directed questions about the wisdom of allowing video gaming at the location to Dolton, since the village issued Giovanni’s the liquor license that allow edit to apply for a video gaming license.
Mayor Riley Rogers expressed no opinion on the ethics of the matter, but said the caterer had been licensed to serve liquor at the former Dorchester since long before he became mayor in 2013, and that the village had simply renewed its license each year.
“Tomy knowledge, there have been no municipal violations that have occurred for us to deny their renewals,” he said.
Rogers said the senior center’s operators had applied for construction permits and were in the process of closing off direct access between the housing area and the banquet hall.
Until recently, residents of Royal Estates, which has 126 single-occupancy apartments, could easily walk from the lobby of the supportive living center down the hall to the banquet area where the video gaming terminals will be located.
That connection will cease to exist in the near future after Royal Estates converts that part of the building to office space, Cowan, the center’s executive director, said. Construction on the project appeared to be underway
Wednesday and the corridor that leads to the banquet hall was closed.
Once construction is completed, senior residents will have to exit the building and walk around to a separate entrance to enter the banquet hall, Cowan said.
He said he understood why some might view the installation of video gaming machines in the senior center complex as potentially exploitative, but said he had no worries about them.
It might be more of a concern if the senior center and banquet hall were still internally connected, Cowan said, but the inconvenience to residents posed by now having to exit the building and walk outside to enter the future gaming area allayed his concerns.
He said it was already common for supportive living facilities like Royal Estates to take residents on trips to nearby casinos for entertainment and that he hadn’t received any complaints from residents about the prospect of video gaming in the building.
In fact, Cowan said, many are excited about it.
Some of the fondest memories many locals have of the former Dorchester involve trips to the bingo hall that once operated there, he said.
In his estimation, Cowan said, there’s no real difference between playing bingo and sitting down at a video gaming terminal.
“Gambling is gambling,” he said.
Lisa Dansby, whois in the process opening a children’s day care in the Royal Estates complex, said she was not aware of any plans to install video gaming machines at the nearby banquet hall.
She said she didn’t want to comment on the possibility until she learned more about the plan, but that it was “definitely” going to be a conversation she had with her business partner husband.
The day care center, unlike the senior center, has never shared a direct interior connection to the banquet hall, Cowan said.
Royal Estates Assistive Living in Dolton, previously known as the Dorchester Senior Center, houses a supportive living facility, banquet hall and a planned day care center.